Republicans Out of Step on Climate: Rep. Chris Gibson Wants to Change That
September 28, 2015
Previous polling has already indicated that even a majority of Republicans back action on Climate Change, and two thirds of Americans are less likely to vote for a candidate that denies the science of global change.
Representative Chris Gibson, and New York Republican, is one of that emergent majority, and he is collecting sponsors for a resolution in the House acknowledging climate change and the need to work cooperatively to address it.
Beginning with a list of “Whereas..” related to climate impacts, the resolution urges action –
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the House of Representatives commitsto working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.
WASHINGTON — A majority of Republicans — including 54 percent of self-described conservative Republicans — believe the world’s climate is changing and that mankind plays some role in the change, according to a new survey conducted by a trio of prominent Republican pollsters.
The results echo a number of other recent surveys concluding that, despite the talk of many of the party’s candidates, a significant number of Republicans and independent voters are inclined to support candidates who would back some form of climate action. It may also point to a problem facing Republicans seeking their party’s presidential nomination: The activists who crowd town hall meetings and Republican presidential caucuses and primaries might not reflect the broader attitude of even the Republican electorate.
On the campaign trail, the leading Republican presidential contenders question or deny human-caused climate change. In an interview on CNN last week, Donald J. Trump said, “I don’t believe in climate change.” In an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month, Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, who, along with Mr. Trump, is at the top of many recent polls said, “There is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused.”
While such statements sit well with many conservative activists, the new survey found that 73 percent of all voters and 56 percent of Republicans do believe the climate is changing. Fewer than a third of Republicans think the climate is changing because of purely natural cycles, and only 9 percent think the climate is not changing at all, the survey found. It also found that 72 percent of Republicans support accelerating the development of renewable energy sources.
A new paper by Sondre Båtstrand studies the climate-change positions of electoral manifestos for the conservative parties in nine democracies, and finds the GOP truly stands apart. Opposition to any mitigation of greenhouse-gas emissions, he finds, “is only the case with the U.S. Republican Party, and hence not representative of conservative parties as a party family.” For instance, the Swedish conservative party “stresses the necessity of international cooperation and binding treaties to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, with the European Union and emissions trading as essentials.”
Okay, you might say, that’s just Sweden. But all of the other non-American conservative platforms follow similar themes. Germany’s conservative platform declares, “[C]limate change threatens the very foundations of our existence and the chances of development of the next generations.” Canada’s, writes Båtstrand, “presents both past and future measures on climate change. The past measures are regulations on electricity production, research and development on clean energy (including carbon capture and storage), and international cooperation and agreements including support for adaptation in developing countries.” Even coal-rich Australia has a conservative party that endorses action to limit climate change. All of this is to suggest that the influence of the fossil-fuel industry alone cannot explain the right’s brick-wall opposition to any steps to reduce emissions within the United States. Oil in Canada and coal in Australia both account for a far larger share of their countries’ economies (which are less than a tenth as large as the U.S. economy) than any fossil-fuel reserves in the United States.
Nor can a fealty to free-market theory alone explain the change, either. Free-market ideology traditionally recognizes a role for government when it comes to “externalities,” or actions that impose costs on others. Pollution is the most classic case of an externality — a factory whose production pollutes the air, or a local stream, should have to pay the cost. Even F.A. Hayek, in the anti-statist polemic The Road to Serfdom, conceded, “Nor can certain harmful effects of deforestation, or of some methods of farming, or of the smoke and noise of factories, be confined to the owner of the property in question or to those who are willing to submit to the damage for an agreed compensation. In such instances we must find some substitute for the regulation by the price mechanism.” Now, Hayek offered this concession to the role of government in the course of advocating for a pricing mechanism for externalities, rather than a crude ban. But he was recognizing that even the purest libertarians must concede the need for collective action of some kind when it comes to things like pollution.
And so the “moderate” Republican climate position is that action is pointless, since countries like China will never reduce their own emissions. (No evidence of Chinese behavior seems capable of altering this conviction, which serves the handy function of justifying the desired conservative outcome without leaning too heavily on anti-science kookery.) The more right-wing position within the party — endorsed by the party’s leading presidential candidate and the chairmen of the science committees in both houses — is that thousands of climate scientists worldwide have secretly coordinated a massive hoax. And then the even more conservative position, advocated by the second-leading candidate in the polls, holds not only that climate science is a massive hoax, but so are evolution and the big bang. The “moderate” candidates are still, by international standards, rabid extremists. It is the nature of long-standing arrangements to dull our sense of the peculiar, to make the bizarre seem ordinary. From a global standpoint, the entire Republican Party has lost its collective mind.